Friday Update: Closer Look at Crew Skills

Game Systems Designer Patrick Malott talks about the Crew Skill system and reveals another crafting skill (though the systems page hasn’t been updated yet): Armstech. Here’s the blog:

Introduction

I’m Patrick Malott. I’ve worked as a Game Systems Designer on various titles over the years, but what we’re working on here at BioWare Austin is my dream project: Star Wars™: The Old Republic™. In my current role, designing and building out the Crew Skills system is one of the biggest projects I’m involved in. As a passionate multiplayer online gamer myself, I know that crafting is a critical part of the experience for many of you, and I’m dedicated to making sure you enjoy the way it works in The Old Republic. In this blog, I want to shed some light on the design decisions we’re making with Crew Skills… and I might just drop a few new specifics on the Armstech crafting skill.

The Design Approach

As the System Design Team prepared to create the Crew Skills system, we spent a lot of time examining crafting systems in other games, noting the pros and cons of as many systems as we could find. Our primary goal was to create a system that’s fun and rewarding, so we gathered inspiration from the pros and scrapped the cons. During the process, we also kept our minds on innovation, making note of crafting features we’d always wanted to see. In the end, it took many long hours and lots of careful consideration to decide exactly what features would make Crew Skills into a truly exceptional crafting system.
The system has shaped up well, and we’re excited about the results. The Crew Skills system offers crafting features that players expect along with surprising innovations that make our crafting experience stand out. For example, in The Old Republic there are multiple ways to gather resources. Not only can you gather resources yourself, but companion characters in the field can be ordered to take care of the task. Companions stationed on your ship can also be sent on gathering missions, freeing you and your active companion up for action. Gathering missions will even continue while you’re offline – the ultimate in efficiency! Allowing several gathering options enhances the crafting experience by accommodating a variety of play styles, making crafting interesting and useful for everyone.
 


Companions and Crafting

Companion characters are a key part of The Old Republic, so one of our goals for Crew Skills is to fully incorporate them into the system. Having companions perform crafting tasks and missions encapsulates the approach we desired for crafting, and adds to the story and detail of the game world.
Players can issue crafting orders to up to five companions at a time, and each companion can add up to five crafting tasks to their queue. You can cancel crafting progress from anywhere if you need to, and the resources your companions were using will be returned to you. Your crafting queues will even continue to progress if you have to go offline – when you log back on, you’ll receive any items that were completed while you were gone.
Your companions all have different skills and personalities, and their strengths carry over into the Crew Skills system. Some companions are better suited to particular Crew Skills than others. We revealed recently that Vette is an excellent Treasure Hunter; that means she’ll have a bonus when performing Treasure Hunting missions. Companion traits in Crew Skills are designed to be story-appropriate and meaningful, but the bonuses aren’t designed to be so extreme that you’ll feel you only have one companion choice for a given task.
Companions are much more than just a block of stats to be ordered around, of course. In true role-playing fashion, what your companions think about you will affect how motivated they are to work for you. Companions with high affection will have their ability to perform crafting tasks greatly improved. For example, a companion with high affection can craft items faster – this becomes really significant when crafting tasks can take hours or even up to a day to complete!
Though companions are vital to The Old Republic and the Crew Skills system, we do know that some players want to be the primary crafter for all their crafted items, or for particularly special pieces of equipment. It’s worth noting that players will definitely need to be directly involved in the process when learning rare schematics, and that Lightsabers aren’t acquired or assembled via the Crew Skills system. We’ll have more details on this later.

Armstech

The Old Republic offers a wide variety of crafting skills, and we’ve already revealed three of the six. Today, I’d like to show you a bit about a fourth: Armstech. Armstech is the ability to work with hard metals, alloys, and synthetic materials to craft blasters.
When we designed the Armstech crafting skill, we envisioned what materials make sense in The Old Republic. We spent hours reading online, referencing books and novels, talking with colleagues, and utilizing all the Star Wars™ resources we could find to help define the perfect materials for Armstech. Once we laid out the materials, the rest of the system fell comfortably into place.
Players who choose Armstech as their crafting skill will be able to create a wide range of blaster pistols, blaster rifles, sniper rifles, and assault cannons. To create these powerful weapons, you’ll need to get your hands on the right materials. Scavenging, a gathering skill, supplies the metals, alloys, and other materials you’ll need for Armstech.
Entry-level Armstech schematics require only a gathered resource, allowing crafters to enjoy the game system immediately. As schematic complexity and item quality increases, the crafter will need other ingredients, like vendor-purchased materials and even rare resources. The higher the item quality, the more work you’ll need to put into crafting.
There are three quality levels for crafted blasters:
Quality Crafting Requirements
Premium Gathered resources and common items sold on vendors
Prototype Rare gathered resources and other valuable items
Artifact Rare resources (gathered or otherwise) and other valuable items – possibly acquired from other players
Premium quality blasters are relatively easy for an Armstech to make. They generally require only scavenged materials and vendor-purchased fluxes. At lower levels, Premium quality blasters require relatively inexpensive materials and take only minutes to construct. They’re on par with (and sometimes slightly better than) items commonly acquired from completing quests and defeating enemies. We expect that casual crafters will pursue crafting blasters of this quality, and that they’ll get excellent use out of them.
Discovering and mastering Prototype and Artifact quality blasters takes considerably longer and requires much more player dedication. In The Old Republic, we want the crafting of such items – especially at the end game levels – to be a significant accomplishment. Our goal is for players to want to seek out renowned crafters who have learned the rarest schematics. Prototype and Artifact quality blasters will be exceptional, and their appearance and effectiveness will speak to their rarity and power.
Players progressing through The Old Republic will always desire better quality items, and crafters certainly want to provide those items to make a profit. We’ve worked hard to ensure that crafted items have an important place in The Old Republic’s economy, and that crafters will be well-rewarded for the effort they put into the Crew Skills system. In future updates, we’ll go further into detail about how we plan to address crafted items in the economy!

Closing

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. We’re all very excited about Crew Skills, and I’m happy to share these details about our goals and design ideals with you. Keep in mind that we’re always reviewing and testing our systems to ensure their quality and fun. And, of course, we always appreciate you taking the time to provide us with feedback, so keep it coming!
May the Force be with you!
Patrick Malott 


Systems Designer

Overall the Crew Skill system sounds quite good and an interesting diversion from the rest of the game, unique (as far as I’m aware) among MMOs. I do have some concerns about letting crafting/gathering continue when the player is offline (and I’m saying that as someone who doesn’t expect to be a hardcore ‘crafter’), but that’s a minor thing. Right now I can see myself selecting one main companion to always take with me while I let the rest slave away on my ship to make cool stuff for me.